Wine stores tend to cater to either experts or idiots. If, like most of us, you're somewhere in between, head to the Wine Gallery, a shop as welcoming to neophytes as it is to Robert Parker wannabes. The knowledgeable staff will happily guide you to a hard-to-find amarone or the best 10-buck malbec. And if you still can't decide, try before you buy at the store's 'wine jukebox,' which dispenses free half-ounce samples of 32 reds and 16 whites. 375 Boylston St. (Rte. 9), Brookline, MA 02445-6007, wine-gallery.com.
Lighting makes a room, and the selection at Wolfers can give any home a welcoming glow. The Allston gallery has fixtures for every space—indoor and out. It caters to a variety of styles and budgets with fixtures including ornate chandeliers and funky kitchen pendants. The savvy salespeople can always shed light on any illumination problem, whether you need help changing a bulb or lighting an antique barn. 103 N. Beacon St., Allston, MA wolfers.com/.
The sadly standard wedding victuals (banal cheese selections, limp veggie platters) find no place on the menus of MAX Ultimate Food, provider of both impeccable service and outstanding cuisine. The company's repertoire marries the creative with the classic: grilled shrimp with blood orange glaze, roasted duck and caramelized shallot tartlet, and lobster blini tied with chive. There's no taste too exotic, no request too outlandish for the indefatigable crew headed by good veterans Neal Balkowitsch and Dan Mathieu—from tiny weddings to big fat Greek blowouts. 100 Magazine St., Boston, MA maxultimatefood.com/.
Warning: This is not the type of corner café you can turn into a makeshift office. Instead, the dual-use space, shared with Downtown Crossing’s Graffito SP, caters to serious coffee fiends. Presiding over the Modbar espresso machine are former Coffee Trike barista San Bellino and his team, who dole out the best cortados around using nuanced beans from partner Patrick Barter’s central Massachusetts roastery. That attention to detail also extends to the eats, with cheddar-chive-bacon biscuits and molasses scones prepared daily by Townsman pastry wiz Meghan Thompson. 108 Lincoln St., Boston, MA 02111, gracenotecoffee.com.
Technically, the Beach Plum Inn’s harborfront restaurant has been in business since the 1980s. But we’d argue that all the changes made here in 2013—from the installation of chef Chris Fischer (who sources ingredients from his nearby Beetlebung Farm) to the revamped, dressed-down-but-still-smart interior (with butcher-paper place mats and crayons for grownup doodles)—have rendered the Beach Plum an entirely new culinary animal, indeed. In sum? It’s a stylish spot that marries the Vineyard’s bounty with a decidedly cool aesthetic. 50 Beach Plum Ln., Menemsha, MA 2552, beachplumrestaurant.com.
Kristen Repa has seen (and made) a lot of wedding cakes: Before launching her own bakery more than a decade ago, she honed her sweet skills at local institutions like Konditor Meister and the Catered Affair, and even trained at the renowned Konditorei Gerstner, in Austria. Whether you want your cake to match your theme, your personality, or your gorgeous gown, Repa and her team of pastry chefs will turn out an exquisite confection that tastes as good as it looks (dulce de leche or lemon—summer berry, anyone?). 302 Providence Hwy., Westwood, MA 2090, dessertworks.net.
You'll wish you had more occasions to wear girlie dresses after you visit this starry-eyed Beacon Hill boutique. The small space is filled to the brim with trendy threads and accessories, but the collection of flirty dresses, skirts, and petal-soft cotton Ts merits special attention. The selection is comfortably eclectic—think Trina Turk, Ella Moss, Tibi, Susana Monaco, Paper Denim & Cloth, Velvet, How & Wen, and Shoshanna, just for starters. You're bound to find yourself circling the racks, spying new must-haves with every pass. 49 Charles St., Boston, MA wishboston.wordpress.com/.
After teaching spinning at workout meccas like Equinox and Crunch, D'Andrea opened his own 5,000-square-foot fitness studio last year to cater to his considerable following. (He claims a 70 percent retention rate among his clients.) Free advice: "For weight training, dumbbells give far better results than machines. And forget weight belts. Last I heard, cavemen didn't wear weight belts, and they were in better shape than some of the people working out now." 55 Charles St., Needham, MA 2494, .
The increasingly popular sit-down service is good, too (especially for Saturday and Sunday brunch), but it's the takeout that sets this Newton Highlands institution apart. The friendly staff will wrap up anything to go, from a cup of coffee to a multicourse gourmet dinner for as many guests as you can gather. Big orders like those require one day's notice, but Baker's Best makes it easy with a quiet catering office and a convenient check-off menu. There are also freezers full of ready-to-cook meal components in the main store, from hors d'oeuvres to entrées. And that food—it really is the best. 27 Lincoln St., Newton Highlands, MA bakersbestcatering.com/.
Gazillion-thread-count sheets aside, a hotel is really only as good as its bar. And chichi steakhouse KO Prime has admirably elevated the one at downtown's Nine Zero Hotel over the past year. Adjacent to the restaurant's sweeping dining room, the loungelike space caters to an in-town audience as well as trysters and overnight guests with a smart by-the-glass wine list and wowza cocktails such as the green tea-calamansi gimlet (chilled with liquid nitrogen!). For travelers with work to attend to, the combination of wireless Internet and tush-pleasing seating banishes the memory of sterile hotel business centers. 90 Tremont St., Boston, MA 2108, .
Arthur & Pat's, in the words of one sage local, "doesn't cater to the fancy-pants crowd." And indeed, the restaurant's worn exterior, wooden signs, and random rock soundtrack are unabashedly down-home. But if those details create a misperception of slapdash management, it's immediately cleared up by the glorious grub. We're talking fluffy pancakes with piles of berries; eggs Benedict with real crab; crispy, greaseless fried clams; bottomless cups of strong, hot coffee. After your meal, you may feel tempted to undo your belt—and given the easygoing air, it'd almost be acceptable to do so. 239 Ocean St., Marshfield, MA 2050, .
With heavy hitters like Lenovo, Apple, and Sony to call upon, the sole Bay State outpost of Ohio-based Micro Center stocks the best personal computers on the market, along with a bevy of cameras, scanners, monitors, and other peripherals. But what really gets local tech-heads powered up is the vast BYOPC (Build Your Own PC) section, replete with all the components needed to pimp that desktop—or build one from scratch. Free in-store clinics on such topics as VoIP and network security further cater to IT acolytes who aspire to true geekdom. 730 Memorial Dr., Cambridge, MA 2139, microcenter.com.
Husband-and-wife team Ryan and Kimberly Habbyshaw take the term “locally made” seriously: Watch as the paper enthusiasts bring their witty, colorful greeting cards to life on a 1911 printing press at the center of their Pinterest-worthy Union Square shop. Of course, if you just need to pop in for a few delightfully analog everyday accoutrements—Autopoint pencils, Appointed notebooks—they stock those, too. 21 Union Sq., Somerville, MA loyalsupplyco.com.
Why spend nights clicking through hundreds of Etsy shops when you have Fête? Serving as your local connection to the most talented designers, printers, and calligraphers across the country, the team of paper and etiquette experts here will help you choose everything from custom invitations to menus. You'll get the gold foil, embossing, and hand-lettering of your dreams coordinated through one friendly face, saving you the most precious resource of all during wedding planning: time. 345 D St., South Boston, MA 02127, shopfete.com.
We’re so easily seduced by crusty, funky bánh mì sandwiches and fragrant bowls of pho that we often forget how great something far simpler—the Vietnamese summer roll, with its rice-paper skin and delicate, herbaceous filling—can be. Allow this Super 88 kiosk to remind you with its stellar rendition, which comes with a cup of luscious peanut sauce (ask for the chili sauce, too). As for the bánh mì and pho? Well, they’re excellent here, too. 1095 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, MA 2215, .